How to reduce your child’s screen time

Everybody knows what it’s like to be on their phones all day. We have all been asked by Netflix, “Are you still there?” only to begrudgingly note yes, we are…and we have been for the last three hours. Technology has become so convenient and addictive that it’s hard to resist the digital screen.  

There’s nothing wrong with peppering our days with some screen time. Dr. David Anderson, a clinical psychologist and the senior director of National Programs and Outreach at the Child Mind Institute, said, “[S]mall doses of screen time can be a mental health-positive way of relaxing, reducing stress, and connecting socially to friends and family members.” However, the keywords are “small doses,” and it can be easy to pour too much screen time into our day. As with all things, moderation is key. We can benefit from our screens, but we can also benefit from turning them off. This is particularly important for children as they are still developing physically and mentally.  

The Seattle Children’s Research Institute noted that children between the ages of 10 and 16 now spend 10.4 of their waking hours with minimal movement. They would rather go online than go outside, which can result in lethargy and health problems. JAMA Pediatrics released a study in 2019 that linked excessive TV and video game consumption to lower academic performance in children between four and eighteen years of age. Because of the constant stimulation from technology, children, like adults, can get easily distracted and lose their ability to focus.  

To prevent or rectify these problems, how can parents like yourself limit screen time for your child?

Fight Apps with Apps

What? You should use the screen in order to limit the use of the screen? Yes, you can combat technology with technology! Apps like Offtime show how long you spend on various apps and how many times you unlock your phone. Seeing the stats can be the eye-opener that your child needs, especially if they see that they spent a total of three full days on social media or games! Other apps can encourage taking breaks from your phone. The app Forest displays a growing tree for however long the phone remains unused. Encourage your child to give these apps a try!

Set Some Ground Rules

You can also set rules for when or how much your child uses their gadgets. Common Sense’s nationwide survey revealed that 68% of teenagers take devices to bed, and a third of that number actually sleep in bed with them. Consider keeping your child’s devices out of reach from a certain time before bedtime to after they wake up. The blue light from screens can affect the sleep-wake cycle, so by removing this, they will sleep better and awaken refreshed and prepared for the day ahead. You could also limit TV time, place restrictions on streaming services, or require homework completion before gaming. Eventually, your child might enforce these habits themselves.

Make It a Team Effort

Get the whole family involved and maybe even make a fun game of it. For example, give a prize to whoever can last the longest without a device. Make this a team effort, so your child doesn’t feel like they’re the only ones struggling to disconnect; rather, you’re all in this together. Whether you make this a family venture or not, you can set an example as a parent. Be present with your child, put aside your devices as often as you can. If your child is having a hard time reducing their screen time, seeing you thrive, and experiencing the benefits secondhand may inspire them to follow suit. Doing this together may create even better results!

Create Quality Time and Experiences

Try to spend quality time and create memories with your family to replace the instant gratification of technology. A lot of technology usage can derive from feelings of loneliness, but it actually doesn’t help. When you are with your child, give them your full attention. They may feel less of a need for technology and more appreciation for face-to-face connections. Plan family nights so your child will have too much fun playing board games or cooking together to even notice there’s no screen! You can also sign them up for fun activities, like an art class or sports camp, that will spark their imagination, encourage movement, and create special memories.

There’s a lot to be grateful for regarding technology. We can talk to family members in other countries and learn digitally through sites like Skillshare or programs like JEI Remote Learning. But there’s a lot to be grateful for outside of technology, too, so consider reducing your child’s screen time through the tips mentioned above. This is the perfect opportunity to challenge your child to go completely screen-free for as long as they can. With these tips, we hope your child will be able to experience an increase in focus, stronger connections, more exercise, and better sleep.

We at JEI Learning Center believe your child can accomplish this and much more, so even if you’re starting late, take the pledge today!